I’VE always had a particular soft spot for the subject of this week’s Insider Guide.

East Kilbride – EK – is where I started my career in journalism 20 years ago, and I have many happy memories of getting to know the town and its people with a reporter's notebook in my hand.

Arguably the most successful of Scotland’s post-war new towns, East Kilbride has changed, matured and grown in that time, with new communities and amenities created.

But what hasn’t changed is the pride of locals in their town, the history, culture and fantastic green spaces, the unbeatable location close to the city yet on the edge of a rural Lanarkshire idyll.

There’s so much more to EK than roundabouts. If you’ve never been, you’re missing out.

Historical highlights

Named for St Bride, East Kilbride grew up around what is still known as The Village, home to just 900 residents in 1930. In 1800, it was listed as “Kilbride”, with the “East” being added after a Post Office was set up there in the 1830s, presumably to distinguish the settlement from West Kilbride in North Ayrshire.

EK was the first of the Scottish new towns developed in the optimistic post-war period between 1947 and 1966, built to ease the problem of slum housing and overcrowding in our cities, particularly Glasgow.

Each part of the town was planned as a residential precinct with its own primary school, shops and community centres. The Murray and Calderwood are among the oldest neighbourhoods. The precincts were built around an indoor town centre, which has been gradually expanded over the years. The Village, which retains a distinct identity, is within easy walking distance to the town centre and remains the cultural heart of the town.

Industrial estates built around the town centre provided work for the growing population in the 1960s and 1970s. One of the biggest and most prestigious was Rolls Royce, whose workers became a cause celebre in the 1970s when they refused to carry out repairs on jet engines being used during the brutal military coup in Chile. In 2015, three of the workers were awarded Chile's highest honour in recognition of their efforts. The 2018 film Nae Pasaran tells their story. Sadly, the Rolls Royce factory closed in 2015.

These days East Kilbride isn’t so much an overspill town as an established urban sprawl, the biggest town in South Lanarkshire – and the sixth biggest in Scotland. At least three generations have now grown up there, with newcomers and commuters still choosing to make it their home.

The town also has also made a significant contribution to Scottish musical, arts and sporting life. Musicians Roddy Frame of Aztec Camera and John and William Reid of the Jesus and Mary Chain are from East Kilbride, as are footballer Ally McCoist, actors John Hannah, Kate Dickie and Blyth Duff, and broadcasters Kirsty Young and Muriel Gray. Lorraine Kelly’s first job was at the East Kilbride News.

Things to do

I’d recommend starting any visit to East Kilbride with a walk around The Village. The Old Parish Church, built in 1774-5 by James Pollok, dominates the area. The “Hunner Pound Bell”, named for its cost, was installed in 1818 and can still be heard ringing out on Sundays. Inside, there are memorials to those who died in the two world wars, and a number of eye-catching modern murals.

The 18th and 19th century architecture in The Village is charming, and the little high street has a good selection of shops and restaurants. I usually pop in to the cosy Loupin Stane on Hunter Street for a cuppa and a scone.

There’s also the Village green, or Show Park, where every year at the end of July the East Kilbride Show, a mixture of livestock show, flower show, Highland games and gymkhana, takes place. Catch it if you can.

The Village is also home to the Village Theatre and East Kilbride Arts Centre, which offer live music, theatre, comedy, storytelling and visual arts for all ages and tastes, as well as a vibrant programme of community learning.

Another must-visit EK attraction is the Museum of Rural Life, based at a working farm on the northern outskirts of the town. As well as permanent exhibitions telling the story of Scotland’s land and folk – tractor fans in particular will love this place – there’s a packed programme of family events. Vick McLeod says: “My kids absolutely love this museum, especially the farm – the cows and the alpacas are gorgeous! We visit all year round, but harvest time is always our favourite season.”

Walkers are spoiled for choice in and around EK. Fiona Edwards has been enjoying Calderglen Country Park since she was a child.

“It’s a magical place that immediately transports you far away from urban life,” she says. “I love walking through the woodland glen, down by the river and up to the old ruins of Calderwood Castle. In springtime the place is carpeted in bluebells. The old cold war bunker near the golf course is also worth exploring.”

Anne Wallace is a big fan of Langlands Moss Nature Reserve. “It’s a peaceful, beautiful spot on the edge of the industrial estate to the south of the town – gorgeous woodland walks, frog ponds and a fantastic planet-saving peatbog to admire. It’s maintained by the volunteer conservation group Friends of Langlands Moss and works are starting now to extend the reserve. Some areas will be closed just now as a result of some tree-felling but there is still plenty to see.”

Water sports aficionados flock to James Hamilton Heritage Park for canoeing, windsurfing and yachting on the pretty man-made loch, which is overlooked by 15th century Mains Castle. Those who would rather stay on dry land can enjoy the view from the Waterside Café.

If the weather is poor, there's plenty to do indoors. The linked town centre malls have a multitude of big name shops, restaurants and cinemas, not to mention the impressive and newly-refurbished ice rink. The Dolan Aqua Centre has a 50m pool with sauna and steam room.

Where to eat

Number 38 Bar and Grill is the place to go for steaks, burgers and Sunday roasts. This modern eaterie in The Village also has an attractive brunch menu. Worth a trip from Glasgow in its own right.

Zucca’s in Main Street serves up tasty pizza and pasta, while the tandoori dishes at Spice Indian are superb a real treat.

Anne Wallace recomments D’Lish café at the St James’s Retail Park in Hairmyres. “A gem of a place,” she says. “Hidden away in a retail park, it offers a huge, varied menu of excellent sandwiches, tasty mains and homebaking to die for. Seriously, check out the massive meringues. Coffee’s great too.”

Where to stay

Country House: Both the Torrance and Crutherland House Hotels offer luxury, elegance and excellent spa facilities. Rooms from £90 and £68 respectively.

Village Life: Airbnb has a number of listings in The Village, including a smart one-bedroom apartment on Main Street from £38 a night.

What to do nearby

Whitelee Windfarm Visitor Centre, near Eaglesham, makes for a fascinating day out. There’s an exhibition, learning centre and café. Not to mention loads of wind turbines. And great views.

The spectacular Spectacle E’e Falls, in nearby Strathaven, never fail to take your breath away.

For thrill-seekers on two wheels, the iMotox indoor electric dirt bike arena near Linn Park makes for a fun family day out. Garry Scott says: “They give you all the kit and you get to whizz around on electric bikes. Great for experienced riders and complete beginners.”